It’s a Thanksgiving tradition in New Jersey’s Somerset Hills–going to the Essex Foxhounds meet before sitting down at home to turkey and the trimmings. The occasion gained popularity in the days when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was a member of Essex, and people came out to watch her ride, when she was often accompanied by her daughter, Caroline, and son, John.
Despite the fact that she died more than two decades ago, people still arrive on Thanksgiving to see the hunt. This year, hundreds arrived at the Ellistan estate, which has all the charm and grandeur of an English manor house. They often have a little tailgate brunch while waiting for the riders and hounds to assemble.
Eager children reach out to pet the horses and the joyful foxhounds have their own meet-and-greet, being particularly drawn to the kids.
All the horses are impeccably turned out, beautifully groomed and braided. The whole scene is reminiscent of a Currier & Ives print, and it’s fun to be a part of it.
Members of the crowd were treated to a stirrup cup, just as those riding in the hunt had a hot chocolate or something stronger to fortify them for the ride.
The field this year was quite big. Everyone wants to be in on the occasion, though they tend to drop out along the way. There are long gallops across beautiful fields, framed by lovely barns and houses.
It does require a fit horse and rider to continue to the end; this time, a few more than a dozen were still on hand when huntsman Bart Poole signaled that it was time to take the hounds back to the kennel.